GMPA

Extension of the Household Support Fund

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By Alexis Darby, Head of Advocacy, Policy and Research

The Household Support Fund was established during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of the government response to support those struggling with the cost of living. The funding was distributed to local councils in England and the devolved administrations and ran from 6 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.

In the spring budget the Chancellor announced £500 million of new funding for the Household Support Fund which local authorities can spend in the next six months (£27m has been allocated across Greater Manchester’s ten councils). The government hope this extension will help the most vulnerable households deal with rising living costs. A third of the funding has been ringfenced to support families with children and another third will be set aside for pensioners.

Government have said that “Local Authorities will determine how to best use the remainder of the fund within the scope set out by ministers. Previous funding has supported households with food, clothing, energy and water costs, and this extension will ensure that this support continues through to the autumn.” The guidance for the latest tranche of funding can be found here.

There are mounting financial pressures on households across the UK. We have seen inflation rise to 6.2%, the cost of essential food products rise by more than that and energy bills soar up to 50% in some cases. All this impacts low-and-modest-income households hardest. The Chancellor uprated benefits in April by just 3.1% despite the rise in inflation. The JRF highlighted that April saw the basic out of work benefit experience its biggest drop in value in fifty years – so those who receive benefits are experiencing a real-terms cut in income. JRF predict that as a result 400,000 people could be pulled into poverty and that nine million families who receive benefits due to low incomes will be £500 worse off on average as a result of this real terms cut.

While the extension of the Household Support Fund will provide short term relief for many it is a sticking plaster. Government must increase benefits in line with inflation and reverse the £20 per week cut to Universal Credit. There needs to be a well thought out, long term national strategy for ending poverty in the UK and permanent hardship funding for local welfare support, not one off, piecemeal funding.

Across Greater Manchester it is vital that we focus on maximising household income, providing cash first responses to poverty (something the Housing Support Fund should be used for) and boosting financial resilience by:

  • Adoption of the Real Living Wage by employers. Nearly 200,000 workers in our city region would benefit if all employers paid the Real Living Wage.
  • Promoting and supporting benefit take-up so people are accessing all the benefits they are entitled to. The annual amount of unclaimed benefits in Greater Manchester exceeds £100m.
  • Maximising the help people receive through Council Tax Support and effective use of Discretionary Housing Payments – aspects of the benefits system that sit locally.
  • Providing cash grants rather than in-kind support to people facing financial hardship. This is being done by some councils through their local welfare assistance schemes.
  • Making use of support available from utility companies. For example, United Utilities offer a range of
    different types of help those who are struggling with their bills.
  • Supporting people to access affordable, ethical credit, for example through credit unions. Credit unions in Greater Manchester saved people £13m in interest last year.

Until we have a long-term national response to ending poverty in the UK it is through these local actions that we can do what we can, to protect people from the cost-of-living crisis.

 

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Money Advice Referral Tool- Initial Evaluation

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Organisations in Tameside are better able to help people to access the support that’s right for them as a result of GMPA’s Money Advice Referral Tool project.

GMPA’s Money Advice Referral Tool is currently in place in Tameside and Oldham. The Tool supports people to access advice and maximise their income by improving referral and signposting between different agencies. The aim is to help people get all the money that they are entitled to, and to reduce the need for referrals to food banks, by increasing access to other kinds of support.

ICF Consulting Services has been commissioned to support GMPA to evaluate the pilot stage of the programme. As part of this, ICF recently undertook a rapid process evaluation of the pilot roll-out of the Money Advice Referral Tool in Tameside.

The evaluation was informed primarily by:

•  Qualitative interviews with those responsible for designing the tool and four support services listed on the  tool (Citizens Advice Tameside, Tameside Welfare Rights, GM Law Centre, Christians Against Poverty).

•  Interviews and focus groups with 16 stakeholders in 11 different referral organisations (two food banks, a housing association, social prescribers, a church, Jobcentre, a local charity, and a range of council services) to understand their awareness and experiences of the tool.

The interviews provided illustrative insights into how the tool has been accessed and received.  Here are some of the comments about the Money Advice Referral Tool made by those interviewed:

MART Evaluation speech bubbles for GM Poverty Action

The Money Advice Referral Tool appears to have been well-received among services in Tameside. Positive feedback was provided about the layout and functionality of the tool, particularly that information was provided on one-sheet (with further information available online) and it was clear what services could provide support based on the numbering format used.  Interviewees generally felt it was simple and easy for a range of people (professionals and non-professionals alike) to use. Some even described the tool as empowering, at when given to people in need of support, it enabled them to take charge of their own situation.

Many of the interviewees could describe the potential benefits the tool might have in Tameside, including supporting faster referrals and establishing better links between organisations.

It was felt that there was scope to develop the tool further, by evolving the functionality of the tool (e.g. by translating it into a mobile app format) and to use it as the basis to create a system to make referrals between organisations in Tameside.

Several early lessons can also be shared from the pilot:

A formalised and clear dissemination strategy (which includes considerations for branding, training modules on how to use the tool, outreach plans to increase access to different communities) will help to spread awareness of the tool and ensure end-users understand its purpose and how it should be used. This could also help to track who is using the tool, which in turn can help measure its impact.

The tool requires regular updating to ensure it can keep up any changes in who is offering advice and support, and what is most relevant for the tool. Consideration should be given to how this may practically work, to help support the sustainability of the tool.

Continued monitoring and evaluation of the tool will help to identify what impact it is having. It will also identify if there any gaps in services, if the tool should be updated, and how else the tool might be improved.

The ICF Team are now continuing their evaluation, focusing on the implementation of Oldham’s Money Advice
Referral Tool pilot.

Commenting on the evaluation, GMPA’s Graham Whitham said, ‘We’re delighted with the way the Tool has been received by agencies in Tameside. The Tool is helping to ensure that organisations can help low income residents maximise their incomes and access advice and support appropriate to their needs. ICF’s initial evaluation is helping us understand how we can develop the Tool further and achieve maximum impact through its implementation as we seek to rollout it out in a further four boroughs this year’.

 

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Responding to the cost-of-living crisis

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By Graham Whitham, Chief Executive Officer

There has been a large amount of evidence published recently highlighting the mounting financial pressures facing households in the UK. Costs generally have been increasing rapidly, with the inflation rate standing at 5.5% (on the CPI measure).

The cost of some essentials is going up by more than that. Campaigner Jack Monroe has highlighted how the cost of basic food items has soared over the last year, at a rate much greater than official inflation figures. The cost of certain food items, such as chicken, beef and butter rose by over 10% in 2021. A litre of petrol increased by 28% over the same period.

As the energy price cap rises in April, people will see their bills soar – up by 50% in some cases. These increasing costs are likely to be exacerbated by the heart-breaking events taking place in Ukraine.

Stating the obvious, these pressures will hit low-and-modest-income households hardest. People who spend a larger proportion of their income on essential items will feel their budgets squeezed more than those on middle and higher incomes.

Just as the energy price cap rises, low-income households will face another real terms cut in income. Benefits are being uprated by just 3.1% in April in spite of the inflation being much higher. The JRF say that 400,000 people could be pulled into poverty and that nine million families who receive benefits due to low incomes will be £500 worse off on average as a result of this real terms cut.

So far, the national policy response has been limited. Government should increase benefits in line with inflation and reverse the £20 per week cut to Universal Credit. This would help alleviate the immediate financial pressures facing low-income households and provide a much sounder foundation on which to build the proper strategy for ending poverty the UK so desperately needs.

Locally it is vital that we focus on maximising household income, providing cash first responses to poverty and boosting financial resilience. That can be done through:

• Adoption of the Real Living Wage by employers. Nearly 200,000 workers in our city region would benefit if all employers paid the Real Living Wage.

• Promoting and supporting benefit take-up so people are accessing all the benefits they are entitled to. GMPA estimates that the amount of unclaimed benefits in Greater Manchester exceeds £100m per year. Benefits advice and welfare rights services in Greater Manchester bring tens of millions of pounds into the pockets of local residents every year, but there is more we could do.

• Signposting people to financial advice and support, including debt advice.

• By maximising the help people receive through Council Tax Support and effective use of Discretionary Housing Payments. These are aspects of the benefits system that sit with local authorities.

• Providing cash grants rather than in-kind support to people facing financial hardship. This is being done by some councils through their local welfare assistance schemes. VCSE organisations and even some foodbanks are supporting people to access grants.

Graham Whitham CEO for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, GMPA CEO

• Making use of support available from utility companies. For example, United Utilities offer a range of different types of help to people who are struggling with their bills.

• Supporting people to access affordable, ethical credit. Credit unions offer customers low interest loans and access to other financial products and support. Credit unions in Greater Manchester saved people £13m in interest last year.

Through these local actions we can do what we can, to protect people from the cost-of-living crisis.

 

i3oz9sResponding to the cost-of-living crisis
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Money Advice Referral Tools – update

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In January we launched GMPA’s second Money Advice Referral Tool, in Oldham and we are now working on rolling it out to four more boroughs in Greater Manchester.

GMPA believes that responses to poverty should focus on getting more money into people’s pockets and supporting people to avoid high interest debt. That’s why one of our strategic priorities is to support local efforts to boost household income and financial resilience. A ‘cash-first’ approach to local welfare, and an ‘advice first’ approach to other support services is key to this.

GMPA’s Money Advice Referral Tools support and foster cash and advice-first approaches by connecting people to advice and other income maximisation support. The aim is to help people to get all the money that they are entitled to, and to reduce the need for referrals to food banks, by increasing referrals to other kinds of support.

Pilot phase

The programme grew out of GMPA’s work on food insecurity, and we agreed with partners in Tameside and Oldham to pilot the tool in their boroughs. Both tools have now been co-produced and launched with partners in each borough. At the launch of the tool in Oldham in January 2022, Councillor Zahid Chauhan, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “I’m glad to see this support tool available to people at a time when many are needing it the most. The rising costs of living is hitting many people in Oldham hard and is a real crisis. This ‘cash-first’ approach will help get money into the hands of those who are truly struggling. If you’re finding things tough right now just know that you’re not alone and help is available. I encourage you to use this tool to make sure you’re accessing all the support you are entitled to.”

We have contracted an independent evaluation team to assess the impact of this pilot, and we look forward to hearing more about its use and the benefits to people experiencing poverty.

Rollout in up to four other boroughs

We have received funding from the Trussell Trust to roll out the tool in more boroughs in Greater Manchester, and have received expressions of interest from those who would like to work with us through this programme. We will make an announcement about the additional boroughs in April 2022. We are recruiting a Programme Officer to support the delivery of this work. It is vital that people are supported to maximise their incomes and to find routes out of poverty, and we expect most of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs to have such a referral tool, or at least to have one in development, by the end of 2022.

You can find out more about the programme, and register to use the Oldham or Tameside tools, here.

 

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Principal Partners 2022

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Help grow and increase the impact of our work by becoming a Principal Partner or donating to GMPA

GMPA’s Principal Partner scheme provides core funding to the organisation. The scheme was set up in response to organisations who have expressed an interest in supporting the work of GMPA at an enhanced level and contributing to the sustainability of the organisation. Principal Partners share our vision and acknowledge the important role GMPA has to play in strengthening efforts to tackle poverty across the city region. If this is something your organisation is interested in being part of, please get in touch.

A huge thank you to all those organisations that have already confirmed their membership of the scheme in 2022 (you can see their logos below and find a full list of Principal Partners here).

Principal Partners as at 8 Feb 2022 for GM Poverty Action
If you’d like to have a conversation with us about your organisation becoming a Principal Partner please contact Lucy Bird.

As an organisation, we are now accepting donations. Individuals and organisations can now make a one-off donation or set up a monthly direct debit. To find out more, click here. Your voluntary contribution will support us to continue and grow our work.

Infographic PPs $6.10 for GM Poverty Action

Why do Principal Partners support GMPA?

“Regenda has always worked to create routes out of poverty and we know we can do that more effectively as part of a partnership. As a Principal Partner of GMPA, we will have our ability to support people and communities enhanced. With support, people are more able to tackle the challenges they face and achieve better access to opportunities for themselves and their families.” Bill Lovat, Regional Director, Regenda Homes.

“GMPA provide such valuable leadership as we work together to prevent and tackle poverty in Greater Manchester. It’s a privilege to strengthen our support and collaboration with GMPA, and alongside our sister charity Caritas Salford, in becoming a Principal Partner and we’d urge other leaders across all sectors to join us.” Ben Gilchrist, CEO, Caritas Diocese of Shrewsbury.

To read more quotes from our Principal Partners click here.

 

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2021 in Review

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By Graham Whitham – Chief Executive Officer

The year began without a clear sense of what it would hold. A large second COVID-19 wave had taken a grip of the country by the beginning of January and it meant we started 2021 in lockdown.

The ongoing public health crisis resulted in a number of different pieces of financial support, introduced by the Government at the start of the pandemic, being continued. This included the furlough scheme and the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift.

As the lockdown took effect and the vaccination programme accelerated, calls were made to ‘get back to normality.’ As restrictions eased, focus shifted to the ending of financial protections and the long-term economic consequences of the pandemic. At the same time the rising costs of energy, food and other items increased the financial pressure facing low-income families.

Moving into the autumn, a major campaign supported by GMPA called on the Government to make permanent the vital Universal Credit uplift. Despite this, it was brought to an end at the beginning of October. However, the attention given to this issue resulted in a number of ‘concessions’ from government, including a reduction in the Universal Credit taper rate, a one-off £500m Household Support Fund (to be channelled through local authorities) and a significant increase in the National Living Wage.

As the economy has opened back up, the signs are that it has held up relatively well. Unemployment hasn’t reached the levels expected and a shortage of labour has driven up pay in certain sectors. That said, inflationary pressures remain a major concern as the budgets of low-income households continue to be squeezed and the UK’s longstanding labour market challenges of low pay, limited hours and job insecurity are not going away anytime soon. Whilst welcome, the measures aimed at supporting people announced in the autumn do not do enough to compensate for the cut to Universal Credit.

All this means that we, along with others, will continue to call on the Government to ensure that social security adequately supports people as part of a wider plan to end poverty in the UK.

GMPA Director Graham Whitham for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

At GMPA we continue to work with stakeholders to identify what can be done locally to prevent and reduce poverty. The national context, with poverty rising among households already at greater risk of poverty and in areas where financial hardship is already heavily concentrated, makes that challenging. However, we know from the work of organisations in our network that there is much we can do locally.

The following article sets out the contribution GMPA is making to this agenda, and we are determined to do even more in 2022.

 

GMPA’s work during 2021

During 2021, GMPA has been busy taking forward a number of pieces of work that will contribute to our three strategic priorities, and ultimately towards our vision of a Greater Manchester free from poverty.

GMPA’s first strategic priority is boosting household income and financial resilience in the city region. As part of this we have been pushing for a cash first approach to local welfare provision.

We have successfully built on the work we delivered in 2020, by encouraging more of our boroughs to make cash payments to household facing a financial crisis. This means prioritising getting money into people’s pockets over in-kind support such as food parcels and energy vouchers.

Cahs first for GM Poverty ActionA ‘cash first’ approach promotes choice, dignity and control. Unlike vouchers, which tend to be restricted to one or a small number of national retailers, cash payments help the local economy by increasing the likelihood of support being spent in local, independent retailers. It has been great to see a number of councils adopting this approach by using extra hardship funding from government to make monetary payments (as opposed to providing vouchers) to Free School Meal eligible families during the school holidays.

We are also helping people access all the financial and other support available to them through our Referral Tool projects in Tameside and Oldham. This work involves joining up local support services so that people are better able to access support that maximises their household income. In 2022 we will be rolling out the Tool in other boroughs across the city region – watch this space for further details!

Another element of our work under this priority is the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign. We were really pleased to be able to mark the progress made by the Campaign during Living Wage Week in November. There are now over 400 accredited Real Living Wage local employers and Greater Manchester  Mayor, Andy Burnham, has committed to building on this and creating a Real Living Wage City Region.

Our second priority is to ensure stakeholders in Greater Manchester embed a strong strategic approach to tackling poverty. This work involves supporting local authorities and their partners to put in place ways of preventing and reducing poverty in their area, identifying the levers and mechanisms required to ensure policy responds to poverty in an impactful and joined up way. It means each borough should have a robust anti-poverty strategy in place.

One element of this is encouraging local public bodies to adopt the socio-economic duty. This is about actively taking into account the impact of policy and practice on people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage. Our guide, written with Just Fair and endorsed by a wider coalition of organisations, sets out how the duty can be voluntarily implemented and adopted locally. It is great to see a number of our boroughs, including Salford and Wigan, putting the duty into practice.Infographic for socio-economic report for GM Poverty Action

As part of this work we have also established a local authority officers forum. This brings officers leading on poverty from each of our ten boroughs and from the Combined Authority together to discuss strategic and policy responses to poverty. A big thank you to officers who have engaged in the forum to date.

At a Greater Manchester level, we were pleased to see a number of the policies GMPA has been calling for adopted in the report of the Greater Manchester Independent Inequalities Commission. Being clear about the role the Combined Authority and other city region-wide organisations and institutions can play in addressing socio-economic inequalities will be vital if we are to prevent and reduce poverty over the coming years.

One of the recommendations in the Greater Manchester Independent Inequalities Commission report aligns with GMPA’s third strategic priority to embed the voices of people with lived experience of poverty in the decision-making structures and systems of Greater Manchester. The Commission recommended a Panel should be established for people with lived experience of poverty to inform policy and practice at a city region level on an ongoing basis.

This would build on the temporary Poverty Reference Group GMPA established to support the Commission’s work at the start of 2021. The Reference Group involved bringing people with lived experience of socio-economic disadvantage, who have been involved in engagement and participation activities at a borough level, together to discuss what we can do to tackle inequalities in Greater Manchester.

Tameside Poverty Truth Commission small logoAs part of our work on this strategic priority we launched the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission in November. Over the next 11 months, local civic and business leaders and people with lived experience of poverty (the Commissioners) will come together to identify local responses and solutions to poverty.

As we end the year, a big thank you to our funders. Without their support, none of this work would be possible. We have been able to grow the team, bringing in a Fundraising Officer and Policy Officer and resource the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission. We are also grateful to our Principal Partners, who continue to provide support to the organisation. GMPA would not exist without their contributions.

Wishing everyone a restful and happy festive season – the GMPA Team.

Christmas border for GM Poverty Action

 

 

 

 

 

i3oz9s2021 in Review
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Living Wage Week 2021

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Living Wage Week, November 15th – 21st, saw events every day of the week in Greater Manchester to celebrate the fight for a decent wage for all.

Eamonn O'Brien and John Hacking Living Wage Campaign for GM Poverty Action

Bury Council Leader Eamonn O’Brien with Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Coordinator John Hacking

On Monday at the People’s History Museum we learned the new rate for the Real Living Wage (RLW) of £9.90 per hour (outside London). This represents a pay rise for thousands of lower-paid workers in the city region. The event also heard Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham set out the plan to make Greater Manchester the first RLW City Region in the UK (more on that below), with the objective of every worker in Greater Manchester receiving at least the RLW by 2030. There were some great contributions from a wide range of speakers and in particular, a passionate plea to end low pay in the care sector from Danni Dolan, a care worker and Unison member.

At the event Eamonn O’Brien, the Leader of Bury Council, was presented with a plaque to celebrate the local authority becoming a RLW employer.  Bury is the fourth Council in Greater Manchester to take this important step, joining Manchester, Salford and Oldham.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday members of GMPA’s team attended events organised by Salford CVS, pro.manchester and The Mustard Tree respectively. “There’s an intrinsic connection between the happiness of employees and the productivity of a company” said Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership Chair Lou Cordwell at the pro.manchester event, “As employers, we have a massive responsibility to do the right thing.” The room was full of business leaders, some who already pay the RLW and some who planned to, and were there to find out more.

On Thursday November 18th Greater Manchester Poverty Action hosted a policy roundtable event to mark Living Wage Week. The event was attended by a range of policy makers and opinion formers including businesses, VCSE representatives, academia, trade unions and the Living Wage Foundation. The discussion focused on how to build on the RLW work being done in Greater Manchester to tackle in-work poverty, with questions such as: how ambitious can we be? what sectors should we be focussing on? and what else needs to happen in policy terms?

One of the most important elements of the Week was the launch of the Greater Manchester Living Wage City Region Action Plan, which we have been actively involved in shaping over the last year. Greater Manchester is the first city-region officially recognised by the Living Wage Foundation for its ambitious plans to increase take up of the RLW. The aim is to raise the number of accredited RLW Employers from 384 to 650 in three years, with all businesses paying the RLW by 2030.

This is a big step towards GMPA’s objective to boost household incomes and financial resilience across Greater Manchester.

 

i3oz9sLiving Wage Week 2021
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Tameside PTC Launch

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Tameside Poverty Truth Commission launch – what if?

By Beatrice Smith, Programme Facilitator

What if people who struggled against poverty were involved in making decisions about tackling poverty?

Over the past 10 months, GMPA has been working with a group of brave and courageous individuals with lived experience of poverty from the Tameside area. Together they are seeking to inspire action and change to solve poverty in Tameside. By sharing their individual stories, they hope to bring more awareness to the decision-making process by putting a face to the statistics and building relationships with decision makers.

This is the principle of the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission, which seeks to embed the voices of the lived experience in decision making processes.  This will deepen the understanding of the multi-faceted nature of the impact of poverty on those who experience it, leading to better informed decisions across the business, public and voluntary sectors.

After months of hard work, preparation and anticipation, 100 people from various local organisations, partners and stakeholders came together to witness the launch of the Tameside Poverty Truth commission, a year long project, which seeks to explore issues of poverty in Tameside.

TPTC launch photos 1 for GM Poverty Action

Commissioner Ed
with Hannah Lamberth,
Administrator and Event Organiser (Tameside PTC)

The event centred on the voices of the lived experience Commissioners, who shared powerful stories from their own lives and how poverty impacts them daily. It was a hard-hitting event, which highlighted several issues, including housing inequalities, failings in the benefits system and limited access to mental health services.

One Commissioner spoke of being wrongly advised to take up a pension when he was made redundant, resulting in him ending up financially worse off and unable to claim government assistance. Too young to officially retire but rejected by new employers as ‘too old’.

TPTC launch photos 3 for GM Poverty Action

Commissioner Christopher

Many of the Commissioners also spoke of falling through the cracks of several services and being traumatically impacted by the vicious cycle of poverty and mental health, not knowing where one ends and the other begins.

As a result, Commissioners spoke of being locked in a cycle of poverty, exacerbated by the rising cost of living, low paid, insecure work, benefit freezes and rising housing and energy costs. Many called for a redesign in the way that services work and called for a collaborative effort in Tameside to free people from the tightening grip of poverty.

TPTC Photos 2 for GM Poverty Action

Commissioner Karen

Attendees at the launch included several senior members of local organisations and Tameside Council leader, Councillor Brenda Warrington. Also present were senior cabinet members and council officers, some of whom form part of the Commission as civic and business leaders.

TPTC Launch photos 6 for GM Poverty Action

Commissioner Helen
with Beatrice

There was an opportunity to hear positive reflections from some of these leaders as they responded to stories from commissioners and the event. Ivan Wright, Assistant Director of Jigsaw Housing said:

“I think all of us in the room were impacted by everything that each of the commissioners said and certainly the bravery that was shown to tell their story. It was a hard listen, but is should be a hard listen because everyone needs to know that this is the reality of living in poverty. We recognise that we have got responsibility for the end result and the experience that everyone gets. I think the right people are in the room and with the Commissioners’ help, I think we could really identify ways of improving things in Tameside.’

Councillor Warrington, spoke with conviction about her intention to see the work of the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission fully established in Tameside. She said:

TPTC launch photos 7 for GM Poverty Action

Councillor Brenda Warrington

“It is absolutely clear to me that poverty in Tameside is a crisis that we need to redouble our efforts to address. The time is right now to think and to act radically.”

Cllr Warrington emphasised the impact that COVID 19 has had on those in the area already struggling with poverty. Her commitment was to see the trends laid bare by the pandemic begin to be reversed in Tameside, not just by goodwill but by determined action from all involved in decision making. She noted that while there may be cause for concern, there is also cause for optimism as collective response to the pandemic has  been built upon a wave of grassroots solidarity and mobilisation.

Local communities and organisations supported by the public, private and voluntary organisations will need to continue to  come together to offer services and assistance to those most impacted by the double misfortune of poverty and the pandemic.

It is clear, therefore, that in order to begin to tackle poverty in Tameside, it will take a collaborative effort from everyone, a renewed optimism and a determination to trying new things and to ask together: ‘what if…’.

So what happens next?

TPTC launch photos 4 for GM Poverty Action

The Grassroots, Civic and Business Commissioners stand together

The newly launched Commission, formed of lived experience Commissioners and civic and business Commissioners will now get underway and spend the next few months building relationships and identifying issues that they would like to address together. Once these have been identified, working groups will be formed to explore these issues on a deeper level and design possible solutions to some of those identified. Finally, a closing event will be held at the end of next year to communicate the findings of the Commission with the wider public.

TPTC launch photos 5 for GM Poverty Action

Beatrice Smith at the launch reads the poem ‘What if..’

The Commission forms part of GMPA’s commitment to embedding the voices of people with lived experience of poverty in the decision making structures and policy making processes of Greater Manchester.  Regular updates on the progress of the Commission will be shared through this newsletter and social media so please make sure you subscribe to keep in touch.

At the end of the launch I read out a poem, written by the Grassroots Commissioners entitled ‘What if…’. Listen to the poem here.

You can follow the work of the Commission on the website and through future newsletters.

 

 

i3oz9sTameside PTC Launch
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The Budget

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Relief for some, but poverty will remain stubbornly high
GMPA’s reaction to the BUDGET and the Comprehensive Spending Review
By Graham Whitham

A much trailed budget ran the risk of leaving us with little new being announced on the day. The government had already announced a 6.6% increase to the statutory minimum hourly rate of pay for over 23s (termed the ‘National Living Wage’ by government) and funding for ‘children’s hubs’. However, the budget included further positive news with a reduction in the Universal Credit taper rate from 63% to 55%. This is the rate at which the benefit is withdrawn for every extra £1 a person earns. The Work Allowance in Universal Credit is being increased by £500. Positively these measures commence in December, rather than April. These positive steps forward wouldn’t have been possible without the powerful campaign against the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit, ably led by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Whilst the cut may have still gone ahead, the Chancellor was forced into doing something to compensate at least some of the people affected.

With any budget it is important to look at the detail, and consider not just those things that were announced, but the things that were missing. GMPA has been supporting calls for the government to commit dedicated funding for local welfare assistance schemes. At present, schemes are non-statutory and councils have to find funding from budgets that have been drastically cut over the last 11 years.

The government have stepped in during the pandemic, providing additional hardship funding for councils so they can support people facing financial hardship and families eligible for Free School Meals during the holidays. This funding has usually been announced at short notice, with overstretched councils having to provide one-off support schemes. We need a permanent funding solution for both local welfare assistance schemes and the provision of Free School Meals during the school holidays.

In terms of what else was missing, not enough was done to stem the alarming rise in child poverty in the UK. We urgently need to see an end to the two-child limit on children’s benefits and a boost to Child Benefit of £10 per week if we are to stand any chance of driving down poverty rates.

Whilst the improvements to Universal Credit are welcome, they fall short of compensating people for the £20 a week cut to the benefit introduced in October. Millions of people on low incomes won’t benefit of course, including those unable to work. According to the Resolution Foundation: Of the 4.4 million households on universal credit, about three-quarters (3.2 million households) will be worse off as a result of decisions to take away the £20-a week-uplift, despite the government’s new Universal Credit measures. A total of 1.2 million households will be better off by around £900 a year than before the Budget.

As we approach Living Wage Week (LWW) (more details on the GM Living Wage Campaign page), it is important to remind ourselves that the Real Living Wage is the only UK payrate based on what people need to achieve a reasonable standard of living. At the start of LWW, the Living Wage Foundation will announce the new annual rates for the UK (and a separate higher rate for London). This will illustrate how far the government still has to go in tackling low pay.

GMPA Director Graham Whitham for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham , CEO, GMPA

In Greater Manchester, GMPA will continue to advocate for adoption of the Real Living Wage by employers and support councils to strengthen local welfare schemes, develop robust plans for tackling poverty with partners and adopt the socio-economic duty. Now more than ever, it is important to maximise households income in Greater Manchester and to protect people from rising living costs and an ineffective social security system.

 

i3oz9sThe Budget
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Challenge Poverty Week

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Challenge Poverty Week is just around the corner, with events taking place in Scotland this week and then across England and Wales from 11th to 17th October. Challenge Poverty Week is an opportunity for us all to say what needs to change after Covid to enable our own communities to thrive.

At GMPA we are pleased to be supporting the Greater Manchester Big Poverty Conversation on October 11th, 2021 alongside the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Church Action on Poverty . At the event we will hear from local leaders, service providers and people with lived experience of poverty on local responses to poverty. This event will provide a platform to:

•  Showcase what is already being done at community level to challenge and alleviate poverty.
•  To change the conversation around poverty .
•  Help end the stigma by building awareness and support for sustainable responses to the pandemic that focus on enhancing the dignity and agency of people in poverty.

The event is being held in the centre of Manchester and will start with lunch at 12.15pm and close at 3pm. For full details, and to book your place, click here.

You can find out more about Challenge Poverty Week, including information on events happening in other areas, here .

By Graham Whitham

 

i3oz9sChallenge Poverty Week
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